In January 2020, Google announced it was following in the footsteps of Apple and Mozilla and phasing out support for third-party cookies in its Chrome browser. For years, marketers and advertisers have been using these bits of code that stick in our browsers and follow us around the web to collect useful customer data, like browsing history, user ID, session ID, and more. Cookies have allowed marketers and advertisers to target people with ads for sites they previously visited, and to keep track of which ads finally generated a purchase.
But if third-party cookies are so useful, then why have these organizations decided to phase them out?
Consumers' concern over their privacy has led to cookies crumbling
Privacy advocates and consumers have grown increasingly concerned over the years by companies using third-party cookies to track browsing habits and display ads without transparency or explicit consent, leading many consumers to turn to ad blockers. In fact, one study showed that 75% of mobile users and 64% of laptop users had installed software that blocks or manages third-party cookies and ads. So while ad and cookie blockers seemed like a good idea, they ultimately undermined the business model of sites which depended on ad revenue to fund their content.
In its January 2020 memo announcing the phasing out of its support for third-party cookies, Google acknowledged these concerns, noting, “Users are demanding greater privacy -- including transparency, choice and control over how their data is used -- and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.” And while Google wasn’t the first web developer to do this as previously noted, it is by far the biggest and most noteworthy, owning a 71% market-share among today's web browsers according to Computerworld.
How do you best market in a cookie-less Internet?
Google’s decision ushers in a new reality for digital marketers, who now have roughly 18 months to adjust (Google's announcement noted the phasing-out would take place within two years). For those able to overcome the move away from third-party cookies, there's a tremendous opportunity to deepen customer relationships and drive growth while also providing consumers greater privacy transparency and better consent management.
But what exactly will it take to overcome the phasing out of third-party cookies? The most important item, without question, will be first-party customer data. First-party data is sourced from a variety of direct customer-business interactions, which include:
- webpage visits
- app usage
- in-store or online transactions
- contact center interactions
- subscription-based emails and newsletters
- company social media profiles
- customer feedback surveys
First-party data is the most valuable type of customer data marketers can possess because it provides critical information on a wide range of customer behaviors and preferences, and is a vital component of ad retargeting initiatives. And as smart marketers know, a better understanding of your customer translates to more personalized marketing outreach, which in turn translates to higher engagement rates and increased sales. It is a vital component of ad retargeting initiatives and can be used by marketers and advertisers to uncover the best way(s) to engage with new audiences.
Because first-party data is collected first-hand and done so with the consent of consumers, it does not need to be anonymized (like is required of third-party data) and can contain personally identifiable information (PII) which can be used to establish specific and unique customer identities. This first-hand gathering also makes it significantly more trustworthy and valuable than third-party data sources because the data collection process is fully controlled by your organization, which gives you the freedom and power to decide which data points are most important to your business and to collect that specific information.
Is your organization ready to take advantage of its first-party data?
The ongoing elimination of third-party cookie support presents a huge challenge to marketers accustomed to using them in their digital marketing efforts, no doubt. However, it also presents a huge opportunity for marketers to take better advantage of their own first-party customer data, which is more trustworthy, more valuable, and more cost-effective than its third-party counterpart. So if your organization relies heavily on third-party data for its marketing campaigns, the time has come to start transitioning to the use of first-party data instead.
Many organizations already have many of the tools necessary to do this in-place in their MarTech stacks today, but that doesn't make this transition any less daunting. So if you're overwhelmed by the thought of managing your own data or are unsure where to even begin, contact us today to learn how you can take control of your first-party data and start using it to accomplish your marketing goals.